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Isidatta

1. Isidatta.– A thera. He was the son of a caravan guide at Vaḍḍhagāma (v.l. Veḷugāma) in Avanti. By correspondence he became the unseen friend of Citta-gahapati of Macchikāsaṇḍa. The latter once sent him a letter regarding the virtues of the Buddha, and Isidatta, being pleased with the account given of the Buddha’s religion, entered the Order under Mahā-Kaccāna and in due course became an Arahant. Later, with Mahā-Kaccāna’s leave, he visited the Buddha in the Majjhimadesa and was warmly received by him (ThagA.i.238). A verse uttered by Isidatta, in response to the Buddha’s enquiry regarding his welfare, is recorded in the Theragāthā (v.120).

Isidatta had been a householder in the time of Vipassī Buddha and once, having seen the Buddha walking along the street and being pleased with his demeanour, he gave him an āmoda-fruit (ThagA. loc. cit.) He is, probably, identical with Amodaphaliya Thera of the Apadāna (ii.447).

According to the Saṃyuttanikāya (iv.283‑8, also AA.i.210), Isidatta was once staying with a number of senior monks at Macchikāsaṇḍa in the Ambāṭaka grove. Citta-gahapati invited the monks to a meal. On this occasion Citta asked a question regarding the Buddha’s teaching on the diversity of the elements. The chief elder, being unable to answer, remained silent. Isidatta, though the most junior of the whole company, obtained the chief elder’s permission, and answered the question to the satisfaction of Citta. Citta likewise asked questions regarding various views, such as the infinity of the world, etc. At the end of the discourse, Citta discovered, by accident, that the elder who had taught him was none other than his unseen friend, Isidatta. Delighted with the discovery, he invited Isidatta to spend his time at a Macchikāsaṇḍa, promising to provide him with all requisites. However, that same day Isidatta left Macchikāsaṇḍa and never returned. Because, says Buddhaghosa (AA.i.210), he did not wish to stay after having been recognised.

2. Isidatta.– An equerry or chamberlain (ṭhapati) of Pasenadi, King of Kosala. Isidatta is always mentioned with Purāṇa. Their duty was to look after the ladies of the king’s harem when these went riding the elephant into the park. This often brought them into close contact with the ladies, and they confessed to the Buddha that it was difficult not to have evil thoughts regarding them.

Isidatta and Purāṇa were once at Sādhuka on some business (their own property, according to Buddhaghosa, SA.i.215). They heard that the Buddha was having a robe made before starting on his rounds and they waited for an opportunity to talk to him. When the opportunity came they followed the Buddha and told him how glad they always were when he was near them and how sad when he was away on tour. The Buddha teaches to them the glory of the homeless life and urges them to put forth energy. He speaks very appreciatively of their loyalty to him and to his religion and congratulates them on the possession of virtuous qualities, such as sharing all their goods with holy men, a rare quality (S.v.348‑52; Netti. 134 f).

According to the Saṃyuttanikāya Commentary (i.215), Isidatta was a Once-returner (sakadāgāmī) and Purāṇa was a Stream-winner (sotāpanna).

In the Dhammacetiya Sutta (M.ii.123 f), Pasenadi tells the Buddha how impressed he is by the reverence Isidatta and Purāṇa show for the Buddha and his teachings. “They are my carriage-builders,” says the king, “and they depend on me for their livelihood and all their honours, yet these men do not serve me as whole-heartedly as they do the Lord.”

Once the king spent the night in a cramped little house. Isidatta and Purāṇa, who were with him, having spent the best part of the night in discussing the Doctrine, lay down to rest with their heads in the direction in which they thought the Buddha to be, and their feet towards the king!

Isidatta was the uncle of the woman-disciple Migasālā, whose father was Purāṇa.

Purāṇa is described as celibate (brahmacāri), but not Isidatta, yet, after death, they were both born in Tusita. Migasālā asks Ānanda how it was that people of different characters could have the same rebirth. A.iii.348 f; v.138 f., 143 f. From MA.ii.756, it would appear as if Isidatta was the brahmacāri. The word cannot here mean “celibate,” for Purāṇa must have had a wife because Migasālā calls him her father (pitā).¹

Isidatta is mentioned by the Buddha among those who had the six qualities that brought realisation of immortality — unwavering loyalty to the Buddha, the Dhamma, and the Saṅgha, Ariyan virtue, wisdom and liberation (A.iii.451).

The Anāgatavaṃsa (v.58) says that when the future Buddha Metteyya leaves the household life, eighty-four thousand others, led by Isidatta and Purāṇa, will accompany him.

¹ Of course, he may well have become a brahmacāri after having children, and may have remained living with his wife, but not indulging in sexual relations.

3. Isidatta.– King of Soreyya. Anomadassī Buddha taught him and to eighty thousand of his followers. They all became Arahants. BuA.143‑4.

4. Isidatta.– One of the three leaders of the monks in Sri Lanka during the time that Brāhmanatissa-cora laid waste the land. The other two were Cūḷasīva and Mahāsoṇa. For the story connected with them see s.v. Mahāsoṇa.

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